Product failure analysis

Product failure analysis is an investigation to determine the cause of a failure, usually with the aim of taking corrective action to solve the problem and prevent further problems.

Failure analysis is carried out in all branches of the manufacturing industry to prevent future failures of products, processes and materials.

In this article we explain what product failure analysis is, the most common types of failures, as well as the steps to perform a failure analysis.

What is the failure analysis method?

Failure analysis is a systematic process used to deduce why a product, component or process has failed.

Failures can occur during manufacture, shipment and installation, and service. As a result of the data collected and its analysis, possible causes of failure are determined and corrective actions are then taken to prevent future failures.

In order to understand the causes of failures and failure modes in materials and to prevent their occurrence in the future, a multidisciplinary approach is often necessary. This may involve several disciplines, such as materials science, mechanical engineering and instrumental chemical analysis, so that product function, design, manufacturing methodology, processing, installation and maintenance can be thoroughly evaluated. Since all of these factors, separately or in synergistic combination, can lead to product failure.

Product failures. What can we find?

Premature ageing

In many cases, products wear out earlier than expected. This problem may be related to the poor quality of some of the raw materials. In this case, it is crucial to detect where the problem lies and to replace or improve the material.

Mechanical wear and loss of performance

In structural elements, a proper selection of materials is essential, as loss of mechanical properties or premature wear can affect the final quality of the product, as in the case of failure analysis of cables and controllers subjected to high temperatures, so identifying the reason for the failure is very important to solve it.

Appearance of aesthetic defects and loss of quality

In many products, the aesthetic aspect is the most important aspect, and the appearance of any defect greatly reduces the value of a product. A clear example is premature wear of a paintwork.

Determining the cause of the defects is the key to solving the failure.

Discolouration or corrosion due to low resistance to external agents

Discolouration or corrosion of a material is one of the main problems that can be found in a product. Finding the reason for it is the first step in finding the right solution. An example is the premature discolouration of parts due to exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays.

Reasons to perform failure analysis

The process of product failure analysis provides a number of benefits. These are as follows:

  • Understand the root cause of failure.
  • Prevent product failures, once the cause is known.
  • Improving future products and processes.
  • Preventing financial losses and penalties for component failures.
  • Comply with manufacturing process and product standards.

Steps to perform failure analysis

1. Data collection

In order to carry out a failure mode and effects analysis, it is necessary to collect information about the circumstances of the product failure. Therefore, the design, manufacturing methods, material specifications, maintenance records, as well as any other relevant information shall be analysed.

2.      Non-destructive testing

Secondly, the product is visually analysed to identify defects, cracks and other anomalies that may have contributed to the failure.

3.      Destructive testing

Failure analyses performed in the laboratory are used to identify the material structure, mechanical properties and physical properties of the failed component. Environmental factors such as corrosive materials, contaminants or temperature that may lead to failure will also be investigated, as was the case in the failure analysis of pcb boards and temperature sensors that we performed at INFINITIA to solve the problem.

4.      Data analysis

Using analytical information together with the expertise offered by forensic engineering, it is possible to identify the failure mechanisms and any contributing factors.

5.      Corrective action

Once a product failure has been discovered, appropriate solutions need to be implemented to prevent future product failures.

Manufacturing processes and product designs can be improved by understanding the failure mode, not only to prevent the problem from recurring, but also to prevent costly legal action or replacement, as well as to protect the company’s reputation. At INFINITIA Industrial Consulting we want to help you to improve your products and solve problems by providing you with the best innovative solution.

Do you want to perform a failure analysis? Contact our Forensic Engineering team and tell us about your case.